Recap Who is Oedipus? What analogy does Freud make from this? How does he link it to religion?
Support for Freuds Theory of Religion Freuds theory can only be accepted if these two things (at least) are established: 1.That the Oedipus Complex is a universal trauma 2.That buried trauma can appear in the form of religion
What Happened Freuds argument caused an uproar when they became known To some they were deeply offensive; to others merely bizarre However as the father of psychoanalysis Freud was a respected figure in various branches of psychology and his considerable work with patients claimed to provide support for his theories
Anthropological Support for the Oedipus Complex Freud used the work of Charles Darwin to speculate that in primitive societies the social unit was the primal horde Hordes were groups of people arranged around a single dominant male who had total authority over the group and held claim over all the females
Totem and Taboo In Freud's book Totem and Taboo he uses the primal horde as an explanation of religious belief In the beginning there is a male leader. This leader is seen as a father figure for the other members of the tribe. This primal father was a violent and despotic ruler who reserved all the women for himself The father served as both someone to love and fear. There was a feeling of ambivalence towards the primal father from the younger men in the tribe as on the one hand, the sons feared and hated the man who thwarted their sexual demands and pursuit of power. On the other hand, they loved and admired him, longed for him and looked up to him This ambivalence, the coinciding of love and hate, tenderness and hostility, is seen to be the essence of the father son relationship.
Eventually the hostility side of the relationship took over and the young men in the tribe formed a bond, overwhelmed him and killed and ate him to incorporate his strength, wisdom and other characteristics Freud explains that the sons fear and hatred of the primal father led them to murder him. Their love and admiration led them to the literal incorporation of his flesh into their flesh Guilt arises from this act as tender feelings towards the father, suppressed at the time of the murder begin to mount and turn into remorse and guilt. This guilt results in the arising of totemism The sons installed a totem animal which was thought of both as the clans ancestor and as its guardian and protector This totem animal eventually became a God and both the totem animal and the God symbolise the father
Freud explains that the tribe solved the problem of guilt through the fact that the clansmen are under a sacred obligation (subject to automatic sanctions) not to kill or destroy their totem and to avoid eating its flesh (or deriving benefit from it in other ways along with the taboo against having sexual relations with the women of their own tribe. Thus renouncing one and all the ideal of the fathers absolute dominance The memory of these events was inherited by later generations, and was commemorated in the regular ritual killing and eating of the totem animal
How This Links To Religion Freud relates this to modern day religion by saying that it lives on in guilt and fear of God and avoidance of sex, in the Christian Eucharist (eating of God), and in atonement, leading to reconciliation with the father The murdered primal father is said to constitute the original image upon which later religions and generations modelled their concept of God. This idea of totem, taboo and the primal horde also relates to original sin, according to Freud: The sons killing of the father with its attendant sense of guilt is the original sin. Totemistic religion then formed as the sons attempted to soften their guilt and reconcile with the father through subsequent obedience. In Freuds opinion all later religions are attempts to solve the very same problems. They are all reactions aiming at one and the same event that is at the origin of culture and that has been driving humanity ever since
How Does This Support The Oedipus Complex This shows that the Oedipus Complex is not simply a personal trauma, but one that has affected all societies at a historical level It helps to explain why religion is universal as a collective neurosis and why the concept of God is such a powerful one: because it stems also from a historical experience that still affects us Freud believed in some kind of psychological mechanism whereby guilt for the original crime is passed on genetically
What Do You Think? Does the idea of the primal horde and totem and taboo successfully support the Oedipus Complex? Why/Why not?
Problems – Anthropological Evidence for the Primal Horde The whole theory of the horde was based on Darwins mere speculations It is not accepted that people were grouped exclusively in hordes – it is likely that there was much greater variety Not all societies had totem objects whom they worshipped and there is no evidence for an ambivalent attitude towards the totems which is demonstrated by the totem meal (the British anthropologist E.E. Evans- Pritchard doubts that this ever happened
The idea that guilt is handed down from generation to generation has likewise been discredited
Psychological Attacks on the Oedipus Complex The major critic of Freuds theory of the Oedipus Complex is Bronislaw Malinowski in his book Sex and Repression Freud needed the complex to be universal for it to be the cause of religion, and needed it to be caused by our natures for it to precede religion and be the cause of it
Malinowskis Attack Malinowski attacked both these points: Malinowski argued instead that the complex is caused by the strict rules of religion – rather than it being a cause of them 1.First he pointed to the Trobriand race, where the role of the father is more that of a weak nurse. In this race there is no evidence of the complex 2.Second, looking at the animal world he found nothing inherent in the nature of animals that could cause such a complex. The role of both father and mother is one of support This attack on the Oedipus Complex leads to the conclusion that sexual guilt is not in fact the cause of religion As a result, Freuds attack on religion does not contain the force it was once believed to have
What Do You Think? Do you think these arguments have disproved the Oedipus Complex? Can you think of any counter arguments?
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